Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New Beginning 153

It’s amazing how you take oxygen for granted until you don’t have any.

I’m Teresa Jones, a stupid sixteen-year-old who choked to death on a freaking barbequed pork sandwich and am now a ghost. Pretty pathetic, huh?

Okay, let me back up. About an hour ago, I went out with my best friend, Jamie, to eat dinner after seeing a movie, which sucked big time--but that’s beside the point. Anyway, I was pigging out on my pulled pork sandwich. For some reason, I’ve been blessed with high metabolism.

Don’t throw a rock at me--I did just say I’m dead, so rapid digestion isn’t doing me any good right now.

Anyway, so we were talking, and suddenly, a lump of pork got stuck in my throat. I couldn’t breathe and struggled to fight off the dizziness. That stupid chunk wouldn’t slide down my throat, and I couldn’t cough it out. As soon as Jamie realized what was happening she lowered her voice to a malevolent grumble. "It's amazing how you take oxygen for granted until you don't have any, isn't it?" she said. "Kind of like . . . your friends."

I knew where this was going. She was still mad about the time she caught me and her ex-boyfriend together in the Jacuzzi at Mrs. Robertson's house.

I tried to suggest the Heimlich maneuver, but all that came out was hacchhhkkk. To which Jamie replied, "Heineken? You want a Heineken?"

Anyway, I'm not through with Jamie. I’ll teach her to take my nail polish out of my bag while the medic’s doing CPR. What? Oh yeah, sorry, enough about me. It’s awesome here. I can talk to anyone. Your grandmother? Sure. Jean, right? Joan, Josephine . . . Patricia! That’s right! Sure, she’s here. Okay, but before I can ask her, you need to give me a credit card number or . . . Hello? Jeez, whatever. Loser.

Wayne! Bring me another beer, wouldya? And keep that freaking kid quiet, I’m working here.

Opening: Rhonda Stapleton.....Continuation: j h woodyatt, ril, McKoala, kis


Sassy Sundry said...

There should be some Mamas and Papas music playing in the background.

Anonymous said...

I like the opening pretty well -- rather charming voice, maybe it's YA? -- but I do have to wonder... an HOUR ago? This character's only been dead an hour? She sounds awfully comfortable with her nonliving status for it to be so recent. But perhaps this makes more sense if you read the next paragraph, who knows?

Dave Fragments said...

This says "I'm a teen girl, I talk fast, my thought process is scattered and I choked to death on a pork chop."
And it says it three times.

So what's my mental picture? A thin girl gagging to death? Not my way of starting a novel. And I presume that since she's doing the talking, it's a zombie story.

I don't buy it at all.

May I suggest Stewart O'Nan's "The Night Country" for some really well done teenage ghosts.

Rhonda Helms said...

LOL - the continuation was funny, but a bit confusing...hahaha

Nancy Beck said...

This sounds like it would be a fun short story; I like the humor and the fantasy element (since that's what I mostly read).

I'm just not sure if this is sustainable over 200 (or however many) pages for a novel.

Good luck with it, author!


Novelust said...

Love the first line.

Question: Author, is there a reason you chose to tell us the death scene, rather than showing it? After a line like the first one, I wanted to be thrown into the middle of a scene where the girl chokes to death.

Anonymous said...

Okay, she choked to death. Thank you for the backstory, but let's get moving. What happens now?

EE has made me gun-shy about leveling this criticism, but is this the right place to start your story?

Choking on the sandwich is backstory; at what point is there some conflict in your book's plot? Could you skip ahead and start the story there, weaving in the fact that the narrator is a ghost as you go along?

There's nothing here to hook me except for the fact that the narrator is dead (which is interesting), and that won't hold my attention for long, especially since the first person POV is already grating on my nerves. Teresa proves that she's willing to jaunt off on irrelevant asides, such as "don't hate me because I'm thin" and the details of how she choked to death, so I don't have a lot of faith that I'm going to enjoy listening to her talk for very long.

Also, this premise mimics that of The Lovely Bones and Desperate Housewives enough that I'm skeptical about how original the book will seem. If you sneak the fact that Teresa is a ghost in more subtly, after the reader is already immersed in the story, that might help soften the impression that this idea has been done before.

Word verification: CarChasesYay!

Evil Editor said...

EE has made me gun-shy about leveling this criticism, but is this the right place to start your story?

I swear I didn't write the piece titled New Beginning 666.

Anonymous said...

Guess I'm the odd man out, but with a little cleaning up, I really liked this piece. I liked the voice, I liked the premise, the pulled-pork and bad movie gave me a good sense of setting... The story made me smile, and I really wanted to know what happens next.

If I picked this up in a store, I would definitely read on.

pacatrue said...

Personally, I don't think anyone has ever submitted a new beginning at all. I think they and all the commenters here are all fits of EE's fevered brain. I'm not even sure there is a blog here, since EE writes everything. Or.. a me? I blog therefore I am.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you do with the rest of the opening DO NOT change the 1st sentence. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Well, I couldn't stand to read 200 pages of that but--thankfully--I'm not a teenaged girl. Maybe there's a way to work in some bad grammar and text message lingo to make it more authentic. Like, you know, whatever.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I thought the book might be better served--even in this voice--by starting at a later point. She could casually mention that she's walking through a wall or something, then digress into a long-winded and chaotic explanation of the fact that she's dead. "Oh, right. Walking through walls. I did tell you I'm dead, right? No? Wow, dead and stupid--lucky me."

Full description of the details would probably be ok at that point, because we've already been drawn into the action. Of course, if you left the disclosure too long, it might come off like you're trying to pull one over on the reader, and as a reader, I just hate that.

Then again, this opening is pretty good as is.

Rhonda Helms said...

Hi, all. I'm the author. :D

Yes, this is YA chick lit--the story is 45k, which is good for YA, so it is a short piece.

The character is intentionally vapid at the beginning of the story, so I'm not surprised at the differing feelings on

The "conflict" comes literally right after this opening, and it gets to it pretty fast, so I feel comfortable with the pacing.

You guys have given me some good things to think about. Thanks for the comments!

Dave Fragments said...

You guys ought to warn us about YA stuff. It reads so different than anything adult.

none said...

Yes, EE, but what did you swear on?

Rhonda Helms said...

LOL - I did tell EE it was YA...sorry that didn't make it through on here. Anyway, now you know, and knowing is half the battle.


Anonymous said...

A stack of liables, of course buffy.

HawkOwl said...

ROFL It's funny because it's the exact same opening I used for my NaNoWriMo '05. Except with a different character and cause of death. I wonder how many novels start that way - a year.

McKoala said...

The tone is good for YA, I think, and I'd read on to see where it was going. Only thing is that it is very strong and I wonder if it will date fast? No problem with the back story - it's both crucial and interesting - in fact, I'd hesitate to call it back story.

Anonymous said...

I thought the opening was confusing and jumbled in a way that detracted from the jaunty "I'm a teen girl and I'm a little scatterbrained" tone the author seemed to be trying to reach. The first sentence really stuck in my teeth, which was the reason I repeated it in the dialogue I wrote for the part of the continuation Mr. Evil opted to use. I also had a hard time imagining how anybody chokes to death in a restaurant full of people— at least one of whom has presumably heard about the Heimlich maneuver at some point— without there being a really bizarre and interesting criminal conspiracy involving everyone in the joint. (Strangely, as a writer of fantasy, I don't have any problem imagining how choking to death wouldn't be the end of the character.)

p.s. I clearly remember thinking of a Simon And Garfunkel song when I wrote that line about the jacuzzi. Interesting how it morphed in the edit.

Dave Fragments said...

Did you know that G.I. Joe's tradmark and patents are stamped on his butt? If you don't believe me, go yank the pants down of the nearest GI Joe to and examine his butt.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I thought the Navy was the only service that thought the butt would be a handy place for an identifier. -JTC

Rei said...


There's nothing at all with starting in the voice of a chatty teenager. However, even to chatty teenagers, listening to another chatty teenager that they don't know ramble on for long periods can be a bit much. By the first "Anyway", you had taken it a bit too far. By "Don't throw a rock at me", you had really crossed the line. You don't need to "change" anything about the character or the plot (which we don't know yet); you just need to trim.

GutterBall said...

Dave and JTC: I just want to thank you both for the Barq's Root Beer that just ejected itself from my nose.

I think I'll go back to Hawaiian punch -- despite Pacatrue's tagging me -- because Barq's got BITE. Yowza.

Rhonda Helms said...

Good advice about toning it down a bit...I appreciate it!


Talia said...

I have no idea what a pulled pork sandwich is - must be an American thing - and I don't read YA but I thought it was extremely well written. I liked the chatty tone. It draws you in, and suggests the book is going to be fun to read. It's the sort of tone that Janet Evanovich uses.

I'm just not sure I'd call myself a "stupid" 16 yo. Teens have enough self-esteem issues IMHO without throwing that in. Maybe a different adjective could be substituted.

I'd read on and I don't even like the genre (not being young or even especially adult at times).

I disagree with the others. I don't think what you've written is backstory. You died an hour ago, presumably you're starting with her new adventures as a ghost.

I think it is a captivating start...